Barbie’s Townhouse, Then and Now

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Christmas morning, what a magical time; nothing can surpass the joy that the perfect toy can bring to a young child on that special day. In 1975, that joy came to me in the form of the Barbie Townhouse. I wasn’t the only girl thrilled with Barbie’s delightful 3-foot, 3-story swanky pad that year; check out these happy faces:

Kid with Barbie Townhouse

Kid with Barbie Townhouse

Kid with Barbie Townhouse

Kid with Barbie Townhouse

Oh, where are you now girl-in-footy-pajamas, darling-with-one-curler-in-bangs, little-lady-with-eye-patch, and gal-who-seemingly-received-a-new-pair-of-shoes-along-with-her-Townhouse?

Actually, from what I can tell, some of these photos depict the 1974 edition, which was the original release, while others show the 1975, which is the one I had. The 1974 version includes white pillars that hold the structure together, whereas the pillars in 1975 were a distinctive orange.

Beyond the different colored pillars, each year’s model is distinguishable by a new set of wallpaper backdrops that represent the rooms of Barbie’s Townhouse. Oddly, I found the image below from the 1975 Ward’s catalog that depicts the Townhouse with a green roof and flooring, which I haven’t seen elsewhere. Tracing the exact lineage of the Townhouse using pillar color, backdrop images, roof color, furniture etc. has proved challenging. Perhaps I’ll write a letter to Mattel requesting a detailed history.

Catalog Page Barbie Townhouse

As I mentioned in my post on June 8th, today the 25th Anniversary edition of the Barbie Townhouse is being unveiled. Grab yourself one via Amazon before they’re all sold out! To give you a sense of how times have changed: In 1974 the Barbie Townhouse sold for $14.99 according to various vintage toy catalogs; today, in 2009, the structure goes for $149.99 on Amazon.com. Talk about inflation! It must be the granite countertops and stainless steel appliances…I hope the HOA fees are more reasonable.

My own mother – who keeps insanely meticulous records of such things – paid $14.69 for the Townhouse in 1975. She purchased the item at Jay’s Kiddierama toy store in Lawrence Shopping Center in Lawrenceville, NJ. Incidentally, Jay’s was torched by an arsonist just before Christmas in 1983.

Here’s a side-by-side look at how an earlier model, perhaps the original, compares to today’s version.

then-and-now

As I described in my previous post, unlike the 1974 edition, the new Townhouse includes lights and sounds on every level. I’m relieved to see they preserved the pull-string elevator, even if they did turn it pink. In my day, this was the best feature. Although if my Townhouse had a working hot tub adjacent to Barbie’s bedroom, as the new model does, maybe I would have preferred that to the elevator. My favorite Barbie used to invite the Sunshine Family over to the Townhouse for rooftop parties, and they didn’t even have a hot tub, but that’s a different post.

Assembly of any toy before Christmas morning is always a must. As you can see from the open box displaying many separate pieces, with accompanying instruction manual, Dad had his work cut out for him. Mine recalls working on it at 3AM.

Barbie Townhouse in Box

I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk down memory lane. If I hear back from Mattel, I’ll be sure to post more detail. In the meantime, please enjoy this Barbie Townhouse commercial from 1979:


22 Responses to Barbie’s Townhouse, Then and Now

  1. Amelyn says:

    I would probably loved to have a Barbie’s Townhouse as a kid. The 2009 edition is too much pink to my taste, it gave me a headache just by looking at it. Mattel should laid off the pink a little, concerning Barbie. The old model look much cooler with all its vivid colors. Right?

  2. Amy says:

    I used to LOVE the Barbie townhouse as a kid. The elevator was definitely the best part … the best was bringing it up to the third floor then letting it go an crashing it down. Maybe I was a weird kid… lol:)

  3. céline says:

    Good morning

    I really appreciate this website.
    Concerning the townhouse with the green roof, it was a german house called “Stadthaus” and was distributed on the european market.
    If someone wants to see some photos of this house, please do not hesitate to contact me by email !

  4. Meradith says:

    I had the Barbie townhouse – and it was so kind of you to invite the Sunshine Family over for parties! I hired them as staff and gave their baby to my #1 Superstar Barbie I had named Erica!

  5. laurie says:

    I had the ’74 townhouse & loved it to death. The only problem was when I’d overload the floors (no sense of interior design back then!) & it would collapse. Mom still has some of the furniture (couch & bed) that my daughter plays with when we visit. I’m planning on buying the ’09 version for her for Christmas this year. I just hope she’s able to get me away from it!

  6. Joy says:

    I had the 1974 version with the rickety plastic floors. It sagged and the whole house wobbled. My mother wrote a letter to Mattel and complained about it and I received a new
    and improved version with the hard floors that had rugs painted on it. It held up much better
    and I had two townhouses side by side,

  7. Joy says:

    PS I still have my Quick Curl Barbie in the pink gingham dress, my Mod Hair Ken AND
    the Growing up Skipper. Skipper still works — rotate her arm and she gets taller & sprouts a chest!

  8. tricia says:

    The new barbie house is better than the old one because the new one is 3d!

  9. randee says:

    I had the 1975 version of the doll house, it had blue and pink hard floors a yellow elevater and orange tubes holding it up, i played this house for hours and hours, actually my mom had to pry me away to eat supper, i just recently had to throw it away cause of pieces missing and in moving the box opened and parts got lost, I will never forget that house. and the fun I had with it,

  10. Marisa says:

    OMG! I can’t believe it! I didn’t actually think I would find much when I decided to google the townhouse. I LOVED that townhouse and the elevator. I really enjoyed watching the commercial that really takes me back. I would like to get the updated version for my daughter, even though personally that is way too much pink. But just to give her the same pleasure I remember as a child. And the hours I spent with this townhouse are some of my favorite memories.

  11. Iyeli says:

    My sisters and I used to have the 1979 version growing up in Venezuela. My father was studying a master degree here in the US and brought this house as a christmas gift for us one year (either 1980 or 1981). I remember thinking that I had the coolest doll house in he world because not everyone had one where I lived. I loved the elevator and the furniture and just having the feeling that the thing was massive… I had soo much fun!! I was jumping in my seat when I saw it displayed in Toy Story three along with the yoga barbie which we also had..

  12. tina says:

    I had the Barbie townhouse 1978, the Sunshine family, but I refused to have a Ken doll, my uncle sent me the Donnie Osmond doll to be her partner instead. My sunshine family home was a fruit crate with lots of homemade furniture. I used a berry basket for a playpen. I also used thread spools as lampshades with nail polish bottles as the bases. I wish I would see kids be more creative again.

  13. Nadine says:

    Pics #1 and #4 are actually the 1977 version. I know because I currently own one and on the bottom of the cardboard background it has the year stamped on it. The kitchen in the 1977 version has orange cabinets, while the earlier versions are white. I am actually looking to sell it and was looking for what it would be worth. If anyone is interested in it just drop me an email: nmtechie@ptd.net

  14. Tracey says:

    This is great! I had the 1975 version of the townhouse and loved it! As someone else said I didn’t have a Ken doll, but my brother had Steve Austin (Six Million Dollar Man) and Action Jackson, so they were the males of our family. My friend and I spent hours playing with it. The elevator was so cool. Later I got the Barbie pool party and the Barbie bath – which made it all complete. I played with it for years then handed it down to my little cousin, who in turn handed it down – wish I still had it so my girls could play with it. Still have the bubble bath and they play with that. I loved Barbie dolls!!

  15. Becky Morrison says:

    I have one just like the above 1974-5 townhouse.
    I’d love to sell it. My daughter never played with barbies :(
    I do not want it to get distroyed in the shuffle of life.

    Can you help me sell it?

    Sincerely,
    Becky Morrison
    Dalton , Ga

  16. person says:

    I LOVE barbies and I still play with them, I am getting the ’09 dream house for christmas.

    PS I’m 10

  17. rocki says:

    For Christmas one year my sister got the 1979 townhouse and I got a Barbie house I can’t seem to locate any where, it was a house that could be converted from a single story beach house to a two story ski house if any one has info on it please let me know, missing those days playing Barbie with my big sis

  18. Lynn Patterson says:

    Hello. I was thrilled to find your site and take a walk down memory lane. I still have my 1974 town house from when I was young. It has since been played with by my daughter and now my granddaughters. The box and manual are gone. The original furniture is also gone since we had to buy new furniture over the years to keep it “up-to-date” and “fashionable”, but the house itself is still in great shape along with the elevator (which I agree was the best feature). The backdrop is still in one piece and good color. We don’t use it though since it is “very dated” and “out-of-style”. I made a new backdrop for it by using the original as a template, then made new wall backgrounds (printed on the computer) for each floor and added pictures, etc to bring it up to date so that it looks good with the latest furniture, which now is the clear dark pink and orange furniture. Glad my floors were the old yellow and pink, so it works great. We also made rugs out of card stock so that we are not putting stickers on it, etc. The girls see it as me helping them make a great barbie house, but for me, it’s a chance to find my inner child and still play with barbies! I also still have the old orange, yellow and pink camper. I have a real camper and take the grandkids camping each summer. The barbie camper stays on the real camper so barbie goes camping when we go camping, which makes it special to the girls. I loved seeing the old commercial. Thank you!

  19. kim carda says:

    I received the 1975 barbie doll townhouse for my 6th birthday… I loved it and played with my dolls all of the time….my parent have kept all of my barbie things due to moving out of state. I was waiting until I had my own daughter to dig these things out and let her play with them.. I am 40 and do not have any children yet. My neice was over a few weekends ago to my mom’s house and was digging under the stairs and found some of my barbie things. I was at my mom’s over labor day weekend and she asked me about my stuff under the stairs. She is 8 years old… she and I dug out all of my barbie things and I put together the dollhouse….it was just as fun for me as was for her. We washed up all of the furniture and cleaned off the doll house. I know back then my parents did not have a lot of money and to get this as a present was a huge surprise. I was not sure what was the bigger delight, watching my niece looking over all my thing and being excited, or putting things together myself and remembering how much I enjoyed playing with barbies by myself or with my brother.

  20. Regina says:

    I too received the original barbie townhouse for christmas. My brother received the six million dollar man “steve austin” and GI Joe. I also had a wonder woman doll who dated steve austin becasue he was as tall s her. haaha. I loved the elevator and played with it so much I broke the string. My mother replaced it with a piece of yarn and it worked perfectly. I received the barbie corvette and steve and Wonder woman dated in it. Barbie was jealous but she wasn’t his type:)) I miss those childhood days and I still love to play Barbies.

  21. Farrahfan1 says:

    I had the original 1974 release with the plastic columns that overtime buckled & fell apart. It was heartbreaking having to throw it out the back of our building. I had wanted one for such a long time. Today I just bought a 1975 version on Ebay with the hard wood floors & orange columns as I really miss it and understand it will b a little harder wearing.

  22. mark says:

    Hi everyone!How “groovy” to see these posts!As a kid,starting at 2 in 1972,I got my first Malibu Barbie thanks to my mom(who was a very modern mom at the time!and thought there was nothing wrong with a boy who liked dolls!)..that was like letting a horse out of the starting gate!I’ve had a life long love affair with all kinds of dolls..I will forever..The first time I saw the “new” Barbie townhouse was in ’74 in Illinois at a cousins house..she had everything and her parents bought her the new version of Barbie& her friends and every vehicle and structure..every year!!!I have never had a townhouse..until now,just purchased one on Ebay..the 1975 version with that beautiful bright blue box!!and the best part is it’s never been opened!!It will be like the Christmas I never had!!My Mom and Dad were not able to buy those things..maybe that’s why I’ve been collecting all of these years!!!Blessings to all fans of Barbie..young and old!Happy collecting!!!

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